A story of going from being a non-runner to planning for a marathon in three years...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Chicago Half Marathon Race Report

Been awhile since I ran a half marathon. In fact, the last one I ran was in May and it was rough. But I'd signed up for the Chicago Half Marathon months and months ago. Even with the logistical nightmare that is getting to and from this race it has a special place in my heart as being the race where I knocked almost 9 minutes off my half marathon time last year.

Just like last year I went into this race with zero expectations. It's a training run, I kept telling myself. No need to blow it out of the water. In fact, I'd even considered not running with my Garmin! GASP!

But after we arrived at the race and met up with some of the OPRC group I sort of got suckered into being a pacer for another guy who wanted to run just under 2 hours. Still, I put on my headphones and a smile and said we'd start out together and see what happened.

We were so busy looking for a place to do a warm-up mile (never found one) and finding our corral that I never heard the 9/11 tribute speeches, never saw the NYFD truck that was at Ground Zero, and only barely heard the National Anthem. The runners were encouraged to wear red, white and blue and, to that effect, I saw some unique running outfits. Who knew they made running shorts with American flags all over them? I guess I'm lucky that our running club tops are red already!

This year we were preassigned to corrals although I don't recall telling them what my expected finish time would be. It must have been better organize than last year, though, because it only took us about 4 minutes to cross the start line and the crowds during the first mile were a little better. There was still a lot of dodging and that first mile was done in 9:22. I guess there's my warm-up!

The first few miles are kind of irritating because you have to make a lot of 90 degree turns. Once you get out onto Lakeshore Drive, though, it's pretty much a straight out and back. I decided not to wear my fuel belt and just use the aid stations. I almost regretted this decision after I skipped the first water stop and realized it was a lot more humid and sunny than I had anticipated. But, I grabbed water at the next station and was still able to keep up my pacer duties. We were running 8:40s which I worried might be too fast. I felt okay, though, so I just went with it.

I lost my pacee when I stopped at the next aid station around mile six for water and to take my first pair of Shot Bloks. He kept going and I walked for the length of the aid station. I honestly had no idea what mile I was at until I came upon the 10K sign at the end of the table. Ooookay, then.

From that point on I walked a bit at every aid station and alternated between drinking a cup of water and a cup of Gatorade. The turn around at mile 8 wasn't too bad (it's up and down a highway overpass) and at the 15K mark (9.5 miles?) I took another pair of Shot Bloks, this time ones with caffeine.

I was starting to flag at this point but I think the caffeine kicked my rear in gear. My left quad was starting to ache so I kept telling myself "This isn't your goal race. It's okay to slow down". And then I'd look at my Garmin and realize I was still running 8:30s. Even with the walk breaks I only had one other mile time (other than the first) that started with a 9. I tried to change my form a bit so that I was running more with my glutes and hamstrings as opposed to my quads. It made me go faster. Strange.

I distracted myself by looking at the form of the runners in front of me. I'm always amazed when the people in front of me look to have really inefficient running form. Actually, though, I was definitely passing people at this point. Quite a few, to be honest. At mile 11 I realized that even if I ran 10 minute miles for the last 2.1 I'd still most likely PR. Oops!

But once I realized that I couldn't shake the idea of getting a new personal best time. I caught back up with my former pacee and tried to encourage him to keep up with me. He couldn't so I went on ahead. My legs were tired, my quad ached, my shoulders were sore and I was thankfully for the last aid station near mile 12. Then the countdown signs started.

3/4 of a mile left! Just three times around the track, I thought.

1/2 mile left! Just twice around the track.

Then we rounded the last curve and crested the last small rise and there was the finish line. I crossed with arms pumping secure in the knowledge that I'd at least tied my previous half marathon best.

I got my medal and snacks (Rice Krispie treats, oh yeah!) and the best post-race swag ever: a pre-moistened individually wrapped washcloth. Perfect for wiping off the sweat.

When I finally exited the finisher's area I ran into part of the OPRC group. "How'd you do" chatter and guesses began until I realized I could just use my iPhone to scan the QR codes on our bibs....and that they took us directly to our own individual race results! Technology is amazing!

And what was my final result?


I managed a PR by 52 seconds, something I'd never set out to do.

I guess I'd better stop telling myself I run this race as a training run. My legs always have other ideas.

Chicago Half Marathon by snmnstrz21 at Garmin Connect - Details